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Messenger VOL. 48, NO. 1



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Winter 2010


Transition Team annouces direction TOPEKA, Kan. — Tom Watson, chairperson of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team, wants people in all three conferences to know that it is not a secret process when it comes to figuring out how the two episcopal areas will align as one in September 2012. “There’s sometimes a sense that decisions are made and people have been left out of the process,” said Watson. “On the contrary, we took surveys at annual conference sessions, we conducted listening sessions across all three conferences, we publicized the comment forms on the websites, and we continue to want to have input from anyone who has a good idea about how to meet the needs of the Nebraska-Kansas mission field.” A little more than a year ago, United Methodists in Nebraska and Kansas were given a mandate from the South Central Jurisdiction to figure out how to become one episcopal area.

That mandate sent the three conferences into a period of learning and discernment. A team was named to begin the work of creating the structure for the new episcopal area. “There were four areas we paid attention to,” said the Rev. Charlotte Abrams, team member from TRI-Community United Methodist Church in Omaha. “We learned about each other and our annual conferences; we learned from our members in our listening sessions; we learned from what other annual conferences who are working with a similar mandate were doing; and what we believe God’s dream is for us.” The feedback from the three annual conference sessions and the 17 listening sessions had one thing in common, a real openness for change. As team members worked with that knowledge over the past 12 months, they were captured by a much larger vision for

making disciples in the two states rather than maintaining the status quo. The vision focuses on a mission field that is more alike than different. There are great similarities in geography, demographics and the values of the people in the three conferences. Opportunities for mission and justice work also are comparable between the two areas. “That vision set us off to explore the idea of creating one new annual conference,” said the Rev. Wayne Alloway, team member from St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Lincoln, Neb. “We are still looking for input, and that’s why we want to talk to as many people in the conferences as possible about our thinking.” On March 13, the transition team will host a live webcast. Viewers will be able to call in and e-mail questions, concerns and feedback.


TEAM’S NEXT MEETING The Transition Team’s next meetings will be Feb. 10-11 at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Questions can be e-mailed to info@umcneb. org,,, or by using one of the comment forms from the conferences’ websites: www.kswestumc. org, or Comments also can also be submitted by calling the Rev. Dr. Carol Roettmer Brewer at 402-464-4994, ext. 111; the Rev. Gary Beach at 785-272-9111; or the Rev. Gary Brooks at 316-6846652.

Website gets new look for new year The Nebraska Conference communications team is excited to announce the launching of a newly designed website in 2011. Expect the change to occur in mid- to late-January. Why the change? Director of marketing and communications Kathryn Witte said, “We were looking for more flexibility and a more user friendly content manager that, for example, included modules for registration and online giving.” She continued, “Graphically, we are due for a fresh look as the site has had the same look for several years.” The content provider for the website is also new. Brick River Technologies is based out of Exeter, N.H., and its client list includes more than 30 other United Methodist conferences. The look will be markedly different, with a clean, easy-to-navigate layout and new color scheme. New and improved site features include a media bar, the ability to increase font size, a Google language translator, a rotating main feature “carousel” and an improved calendar format.



Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger

From the Bishop

Coming and becoming

Bishop Ann Brookshire Sherer-Simpson

As I write to you, Christmas is almost here. We have announced throughout this Advent season, “Jesus is coming,

Jesus is coming.” This is big. The anticipation is intense. There is special music at church, our houses glow with lights as the magnificent smells of baking and greenery emanate, and carols are everywhere — even the Minneapolis mall explodes with the Hallelujah Chorus. God is who Isaiah promised us God is. God is the one who loves us, calls us precious and wants to be in relationship with us. God comes among us as a tiny baby and shares all the vulnerability of humanity; just like the humanity of the oppressed refugees who were objects of Herod’s rage. Even those of us who wonder if we should take

(ISSN 0194-7761 USPS #376-540) Vol. 48, No. 1 Winter 2010 To inform, educate and inspire Nebraska United Methodists in all areas of mission and ministry in the church.

Kathryn Witte, editor Trisha Johnson, communications coordinator RoxAnn Delisi, circulation Editorial opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. Columns and letters to the editor are the views of that writer and not necessarily of “The Nebraska Messenger” or the Nebraska Conference. Published four times a year (Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall) by the Nebraska Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, 3333 Landmark Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504; phone 402-464-5994 or 800435-6107; fax 402-464-6203. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, Nebraska. Postmaster: Send address changes to the Nebraska Messenger, 3333 Landmark Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504.

Letters to the editor posted to UMconnect

“The Nebraska Messenger” welcomes letters from its readers. All letters should be limited to 200 words, signed and include the author’s name, address and church affiliation. Letters should address the mission and ministry of the church. Editing and publication of letters are at the discretion of the editor and will be posted on “UMconnect.” Letters are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily that of the Nebraska Conference or of the Nebraska Messenger.

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this story seriously are drawn, as we sing late into the night, “silent night, holy night.” For a moment we draw near to God’s pure love. We catch a glimpse of what might be possible with God and each other. God comes to us afresh in the Christ child and we see who we are and who we might become as we pause and acknowledge “God with us — Emmanuel.” The wise men come and we are immersed in light and love. In short order, we take the church poinsettias to the shut-ins, pull down the Christmas decorations. Suddenly, we feel the hard realities of our lives, and we wonder, “What did I learn this year by the manger?” We think about our bills to pay, year-end church reports to complete, income taxes to organize and other work to get accomplished The holidays are over. What does that Christmas baby and the light and love we experienced mean as we get back into the challenges of another year? Will we let Jesus’ coming become a becoming for us? As we begin 2011, the celebration of Jesus’ coming also represents a becoming for this annual conference. Was our ministry fruitful in 2010? Are we open to being the church God needs us to be in 2011? How are our churches doing with worship attendance, mission and justice work, starting small groups, welcoming strangers, discipleship, building community and growing in Christ? Are we giving to our work together and supporting our Mission Shares? Challenge and change are afoot in the Nebraska Conference. What will a Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area mean to us? Who are we as United Methodists in these two states becoming?”

In 2011, our various task groups and The Common Table will meet as local churches start new ministries and prepare for Lent and Easter. New legislation will emerge in the Nebraska Unicameral and unmet needs will become clear in our communities. How does God’s vulnerable love shape who we become in this new year? How does “God with us” shape us? Or, was this just another another holiday season come and gone? God is with us. We can look at the year ahead and not panic. We can read the newspaper and not fear. We can brush our teeth, look in the mirror and not be nervous about what we see. The God of vulnerable love is among us and nothing — not even death itself — can separate us from this love. In God’s presence we can be peacemakers because God is in us creating a capacity of peace; we can gently and faithfully stand with the most vulnerable, because our vulnerable God is present among us. We can confront our fears and live with what must be lived within the power of God’s presence. We can make changes and find solutions because we are anchored in God’s unchanging love. We can reach out in Christ-like ways because God lives in us and shapes our vision. We can live hopefully and joyfully when the burdens of the day are heavy because God is with us. We can live as the light, because the light lives in us. With hope we begin 2011. God is doing a new thing and we walk with God into the future God is making possible. With anticipation of who we might be together,

Ann B. Sherer-Simpson Resident Bishop Nebraska Area The United Methodist Church

ON FAITH AND POLITICS Editor’s note: Sen. Lowen Kruse served in the Nebraska Legislature from 2001-09 and is also a retired United Methodist minister. We have asked him to share ideas on how persons of faith can effectively discuss difficult issues and affect important community decisions. We are “The Christmas People,” connected with first century believers and with Christians from around the world who welcome and celebrate Jesus. His birth and ministry beckon us to peace and good will. Unfortunately, an early bad translation of the angels’ message to the shepherds has provided a distracting message we may see at Christmas: “… and on earth peace to men of good will.” It implies good will toward one another, which is not only a misleading translation of Luke 2:14, but is a terrible statement of belief. The good will God proclaims in Jesus is not limited to those who are nice. Newer translations are more accurate: “And on earth peace among those (God) favors.” The greatest challenge we have is one of Jesus’ central teachings: “You shall love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Lk. 5:34) That strikes at the heart of the mean spirit which is too often troubling our communities, our nation and our world. We are called to show peace and good will to all. Martin Luther King, Jr. eventually understood that he could not harbor hate for whites. Ever again. He did not start there. When Rosa Parks took her bold action to respond with creative good will rather than hatred, it put her pastor (MLK) in a spot for which he was not prepared. Fearful for his own life and for the safety of his family, King bought and carried a pistol. Bayard Rustin, a brilliant thinker who fully accepted Jesus, noted the opportune timing in King’s life, the uselessness of a strategy for blacks to shoot it out with whites, and Jesus’ message of non-violent response to thuggery, decided it was time to have a serious discussion with his friend. Rustin came and lived in King’s basement for two months, while they thought through what peace and good will meant in the real world. King was a gifted learner and strategist who soon wholeheartedly accepted the teaching of Jesus as superior to what we in our darkness do to each other. They, with others, developed the non-violent response. Rustin was the mastermind of the March on Washington in 1963, the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Blacks were “free” but in many states they still could not vote – 100 years later! A few states were preparing for secession if they were forced to obey the constitution. Many Nebraska Christians joined with “ordinary heroes” who stood solid in community witness. Andy Foreman, who later was a pastor with us in Nebraska, walked with his daughter, the first white student in an integrated elementary school, through a gauntlet of shouts, insults and spit. It was witness to faith. I am so grateful for “I Have a Dream” and all that went with it. They rescued me from living in a racist society. We are blessed by the message of those who lived peace and good will for all of God’s people. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.”


Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


Crowell Home Crowell Health Services

Deaconess Mary Ellen Kilmer puts her substitute teaching skills to use as a volunteer teacher at the Denton, Neb., UMC vacation Bible school.

Mary Ellen Kilmer continues her journey in faith as deaconess By Kathryn Witte Communications director

Two cats and 500-plus miles helped define Mary Ellen Kilmer’s 2010 summer vacation that brought her to the Lincoln area from her northwest Nebraska home in Harrison. Kilmer’s son and daughter-inlaw asked her to housesit and mind their cats while they traveled on a month-long European vacation. As a newly commissioned deaconess, Kilmer determined this was an opportunity to enter another phase of her ministry. She sent letters to pastors across the Lincoln area (Blue River District) offering to help with Sunday school, vacation Bible school or pulpit supply throughout July; she is also a Certified Lay Speaker. Kilmer was commissioned during the 2010 United Methodist Women’s Assembly held in April in St. Louis, along with 11 other deaconesses and one home missioner. Deaconesses, who are laywomen, and home missioners, who are laymen, have responded to God’s call in their lives by committing to a lifetime of full-time ministry. Those commissioned select a ministry area in which to specialize. Kilmer’s chosen area was substitute teaching. She had several takers on her offer to help and found herself assisting with vacation Bible school in Denton, a small town near Lincoln, and Christ United Methodist Church in Lincoln, both good places to use her teaching skills while still being able to mind her son’s cats. In between VBS commitments, she found time to help the Nebraska Conference staff with a grant application and work with their historical archives. She also preached at the Crete, Nehawka and Weeping Water United Methodist churches, telling congregations about her journey to becoming

a deaconess and inviting others to look into the Deaconess/Home Missioner Program. Kilmer’s husband George is an ordained elder serving the Harrison UMC. Some have asked Kilmer why she too didn’t become an ordained elder. “It’s an opportunity to explore where your life can go and perhaps what new direction to take in service to God and human beings,” she responded. “We each have our own individual ministries, but we all are commissioned to love, justice and service.” “I wanted to be a part of a community of committed individuals with a broad view of the church. I wanted to have a formal connection with my church; to explore new ideas and to serve beyond being the ‘spouse of a clergy,’” she continued. Back in Harrison, Kilmer describes herself as a professional substitute teacher. With degrees in elementary education and human development and the family, along with a media endorsement, Kilmer is a highly sought-after substitute teacher serving several rural school districts. She averages about two days of substitute teaching per week during the school year. “When working with children, my deaconess background reminds me that each one with whom I work is a child of God and through my actions, I can share this message of love, justice and service,” commented Kilmer on how her deaconess role connects with her work as a teacher in the public schools. As she prepares for another season of substitute teaching, she says she was amazed and blessed by her month-long experience and encouraged her son and daughter-inlaw to call upon her again to housesit. While she’ll take a few days of “real” vacation to spend with family this summer, Kilmer models the historic legacy of the lay deaconess: a commitment to living a life of love, justice and service. How fortunate are the teachers and students studying in those rural Nebraska school districts to have one such as Kilmer working in their midst.

DEATH NOTICES M. Manick Samuel, 79, a retired clergy member of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference, died Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010, at Huntington Memorial Hospital, in Pasadena, Calif. He is survived by his wife: Sarojini Samuel, 136 S. San Marino Ave., Pasadina, CA 91107, son, Edison Samuel and wife Margarette of Pasadena, Calif.; three daughters, Sylvia Lancaster and husband David of Omaha, Shirin Samuel of Pasadena, Calif., and Sheba Dabney of Denver, Colo. A memorial service was held Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010, at First UMC, 614 N. Hastings, Hastings, Neb., at 10 a.m. Officiating were the Rev. Hughes Morris, the Rev. Dick Turner and the Rev. A.K. Saul. Interment at the Trumbull Cemetery in Trumbull, Neb. In lieu of flowers, the Rev. Samuel requested that memorial contributions be directed in his name to the First National Bank of Omaha on behalf of the Methodist Boys High School and Lucille Colony Girls Hostel in Bidar, India. J. Graydon Wilson, 96, a retired clergy member of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference, died Monday, Dec. 13, 2010. He is survived by wife, Florence, 1652 W. 10th, Fremont, NE 68025; son, David Wilson; two daughters, Michal Kaye Hume and Priscilla Shipps. He was preceded in death by wife Hortense, May 4, 2002. A memorial service was held Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, at 11 a.m., at First UMC, 815 N. Broad, Fremont, Neb. Officiating was the Rev. Greg Hall. Cremation. Memorials have been designated to First United Methodist Church, 815 N. Broad, Fremont, NE 68025.

2010 Mission Share receipt deadline

Please remember that the deadline for 2010 church Mission Share receipts is Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, at 5 p.m. Please remember that funds can be wired directly to the Conference Center and in most cases there is no charge due to the non-profit status. If a church is interested in a wire transfer payment, please contact Tina Watteyne, accounting clerk, at 800-435-6107, ext. 118. Many congregations have already reached the 100 percent goal and for your faithful financial commitment we are thankful. Robin R. Kilgore, Conference treasurer/director of administrative services




By Brady Jones, contributing writer


onathan Benjamin-Alvarado was shocked when the lady started screaming. The amount of anger she was hurling at him in weapon-like fashion defied her petite, fragile frame. Holding a sign that read, “I want my country back!” she demanded that he go back to Mexico. He was obviously an illegal immigrant – his russet-colored skin and jet black hair gave it away. And he was obviously here to take American jobs and drain the welfare system and live tax-free. But Dr. Benjamin-Alvarado isn’t an illegal immigrant. He’s not an immigrant at all – unless you consider moving to Nebraska from California an act of immigration. He is a U.S. citizen and a fourth generation veteran. And he’s working to dispel the myths circling the immigration issue coming to Nebraska. “We are a country of immigrants. That has always been the case and always will be the case,” the UNO political science professor told more than 250 people who gathered for a conversation on faith and immigration on Nov. 7, 2010. Organizers hope the event — sponsored by the interfaith coalition Peacemaking Workshop XXIV, Nebraskans for Peace and the Lincoln First UMC — will be a springboard for state-wide discussion ahead of state Sen. Charlie Janssen’s promised immigration legislation modeled on Arizona’s controversial law passed earlier this year. “The well of public discourse has been poisoned,” Benjamin-Alvarado said. Sen. Janssen is no stranger to controversy and immigration reform. As a member of the Fremont City Council in 2008 he voted for an ordinance that sought to make renting a residence and finding a

job very difficult for illegal immigrants. Though the Council voted 5-4 against the ordinance, the discussion had hit a political nerve in the city of around 26,000 residents. A special election for the proposed ordinance was passed by petition in 2009, and with 57 percent of the vote, the ordinance was passed last June. The ordinance’s passage sparked lawsuits from the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and is currently working its way through the U.S. judicial system. Kristin Ostrom from One Fremont, One Future – “a group of Fremont residents committed to Fremont’s future with a focus on the positive contributions of all residents to the community as a whole,” according to their website – said resolutions and statements issued by churches can help in the fight against discrimination but won’t be very effective if there aren’t people in the pews talking about loving your neighbor. That was her plea to churches across the state. “It’s the politics of fear,” Ostrom told the gathering. “The politics of fear will be in the state of Nebraska, too. One of the reasons it happened in Fremont was because the church wasn’t there.” But as the immigration glass makes its way to Nebraska, Dr. Benjamin-Alvarado tries to keep a halffull perspective. “This isn’t a crisis in my book – it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing to be able to be here to discuss this today, and it’s a blessing for all of you to be here today, too.”

Peacemaking workshop, Jan. 16

By Larry Moffet First UMC, Lincoln, senior pastor

Can people of faith help frame the national discussion on immigration issues through compassionate conversation? That’s the aim of the Lincoln First United Methodist Church’s Peacemaking Workshop XXIV planning committee for two events. One was held Nov. 7. A follow-up event is set for Sunday, Jan. 16, at Lincoln First UMC, 1:30 p.m. Coleen Seng — who rejoined the First UMC staff after serving as mayor of Lincoln — focused our efforts when she said, “There ought to be something our Peacemaking Workshop can do to help people come together and talk about this divisive issue.” Over the years, First UMC has sponsored 24 Peacemaking

Workshops, bringing together people from other UM congregations and faith groups to plan the annual Peacemaking Workshop. Past years’ events have featured speakers Jim Wallis and Helen Caldicott. More than 250 people from a variety of faith backgrounds attended the Nov. 7 event, including many UM pastors and laity, 60 Nebraska Wesleyan students and a wide representation of people from other denominations. Some in attendance made it clear that they were not practitioners of any faith but wanted to be a part of a compassionate conversation on immigration. A poignant moment came when NWU student Leslie Bellas of Fremont, Neb., told how her parents’ small Mexican grocery store had become a target during Fremont’s debate over the anti-immigration ordinance. She said that people walked into the store yelling at her

father, “Go home!” even though he has been in the community for decades and that on one occasion her brother, a NWU graduate, was assaulted while working in the store. As part of our ministries with college students, First UMC works hard to connect younger generations with people in our congregation and throughout Nebraska involved in making the world and our community a better place. Peacemaking Workshop XXIV bridged the generations as several of the students stayed to have informal conversations with Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado — the keynote speaker, UNO political science professor and member of First UMC, Omaha — and other speakers after the scheduled events were over. The goal of bringing generations together to learn from each other is part of our understanding of evangelism. It is dynamic when it happens. Of course it would be no surprise

Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


We are a country of immigrants. That has always been the case and always will be the case.”

— Dr. Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado, UNO political science professor

LEARN, PRAY, ACT ON IMMIGRATION The Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska Peace and Justice Team has an informational piece titled “An Arizona-like Law in Nebraska: Why?” available at the Risk-taking Mission and Justice page at, under Ministries in Action. Dr. Heidi Beirich, their lead researcher on hate groups at The Southern Poverty Law Center, recently came to Nebraska to present her findings in “The Nativist Lobby,” which is a summary booklet of her research and gives the documentation of the issue’s background. It can

that many opinions on the subject of immigration find expression on campus. That’s as it should be. Academic freedom is valued here. The miracle for me as a pastor is to see the multiple ways this dynamic community — Nebraska Wesleyan and First Church — continues to nurture constructive dialogue and respectful action on even the most contentious issues. NWU’s President Fred Ohles said with a twinkle in his eye that Nebraska Wesleyan and First Church represent “a happy marriage of

be found in your district superintendent’s office or can be downloaded at All Nebraska United Methodists are invited to participate in a seminar on immigration May 2-6 at the Church Center for the United Nations and the Women’s Division and General Board of Global Ministries Offices in New York City. Registration deadline is Feb. 15. For more information, contact Marilyn Zehring, 402-564-0756, mbzehri@

Athens and Jerusalem.” There is a place for you in all of this. We invite persons who want to work together to bring about a compassionate discussion of immigration issues to attend the Jan. 16 event at First UMC. The focus of that event will be to share ways to talk with and write to Nebraska State Senators so that Nebraska does not adopt legislation on immigration that will hurt our state either socially or economically. For more information, call Lincoln First UMC at 402-466-1906.


Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


Micah Corps ’11 MY STORY: from p. 12

What does the Lord require, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8

Pictured above are the Micah Corps members from 2010. Six Nebraska United Methodist young adults will be selected to be part of a team of summer interns that prays, learns and acts in the arena of Christian risk-taking mission and justice work for 10 weeks during the summer of 2011. This experience offers: — A deepened walk with God by exploring different prayer practices. — Sharpened leadership skills. — Integration of faith and action (talking the talk and walking the walk). — Learning from Nebraska advocacy experts. — Connecting with churches across Nebraska. — A week with national

and international leaders in Washington, D.C. — A stronger resume for future vocation. The application deadline is March 16, 2011. Selection of interns will be announced March 23, 2011. The Micah Corps is a project of the Risk-taking Mission and Justice Team of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference. To see the video from the 2010 Micah Corps and access the 2011 application, go to For more information contact, Risk-taking Mission and Justice Ministries at rtmj. or call Jodi Geiger, 402-493-3623.

ANNOUNCEMENTS United Methodist layman Tim Shaw will be the keynote speaker at the Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day on Feb. 12, at Christ UMC in Lincoln. Come and link your faith with action! For registration information, go to: UMNaction will be a newly added feature on the new Conference website. It will be a network of individuals within the Nebraska Annual Conference who

want to support the UM Social Principles and be a voice for the church in matters related to the Nebraska Legislature. Register and receive monthly updates and latebreaking action alerts, or sign up to be part of a list of people willing to speak before legislative committees. Go to (midJanuary on the new site) and click on the UMNaction box on the right side of the home page.

my brothers and sisters. My next significant encounter with AIDS came in July 2006. I found myself in the eastern highlands in the African country of Zimbabwe, on a volunteer mission with the ZOE Ministry. ZOE works to assist the vulnerable children orphaned primarily as a result of the AIDS pandemic in subSaharan Africa. During that trip our team visited five Methodist primary schools and saw a total of about 2,500 children. These were regular day schools with each one having from 25 to nearly 70 percent of the students being orphans. I have since returned three more times as part of the ZOE Ministry and have encountered more than 4,000 precious, vulnerable children. Teams in which I was a member have visited the homes of some of these orphans and squatted in huts where, often alone, or with only siblings for comfort, the children watched parents lose their battle with AIDS. We have played with these children. We have placed in their bowls the one cup-full of porridge they receive each day; for many, all they will eat that day. We have measured the orphans for uniforms and seen their emaciated bodies, their dirty little limbs and bare, frequently injured, feet. We

have held these children who have long gone without a loving touch. And they have broken our hearts. And they have changed my life. I, like most people, struggle not to become numbed and complacent by the magnitude of the problems we are told of, such as 25 million-plus people who have died in the world from AIDS, perhaps the largest single natural disaster to ever strike mankind. When I focus on the individuals and the precious children I have encou ntered, I believe God has put them in my life and I in theirs to carry out the charge given us by Jesus to care for our brothers and sisters, including the “widows and orphans.” Donating to the UM Global AIDS Fund is an opportunity for each of us to make a contribution which will fund continuing efforts to curtail and even eliminate HIV,

The global AIDS fight

On Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010, every United Methodist Church in Nebraska was encouraged to take a special offering for the UM Global AIDS Fund; 25 percent of offerings total stay in Nebraska and go towards local AIDS projects. The Nebraska Conference AIDS Task Force expressed their gratitude to all those who contributed to the fund. Donations are accepted throughout the year. Checks should be made out to “Conference Treasurer,” with Advance 578 indicated on the memo line, and mailed to the Nebraska UM Conference Center, 3333 Landmark Circle, Lincoln, NE 68504. Projects started with this fund give new life to many folks who are struggling with AIDS. There are many resources for local churches on the UM Global AIDS Fund website, including a “toolkit” with sermons starters, statistics, videos, handouts and more. Visit www. There is still a great need for AIDS ambassadors in our local United Methodist churches. The ambassador’s job is to promote the World AIDS Day special offering and to send prayers to those affected by AIDS. If you are interested or would like more information, e-mail Nebraska Conference AIDS Task Force member Maureen Vetter at “Know that you are giving life and hope through your donations,” said Vetter. “Thanks also to our local AIDS ambassadors who worked so hard to promote the special offering and connect local churches with this important issue.”

and thus AIDS, everywhere. The Fund was established at the 2004 General Conference to raise $8 million, a commitment of $1 for every Methodist in the U.S. In just five years, more than $3 million has been raised to support AIDS-related projects around the world. May this be the year that goal of $1 per member is achieved and maybe even surpassed. (Photo below: Bill Black, at Mt. Makomwe Primary School in the Marange district of Zimbabwe, with three of the orphans for which ZOE provides care.)

2011 Special Sundays The following are the suggested dates for the six church-wide Special Sundays, as well as two Conference-wide special offerings. Clip and keep it in a visible place to serve as a reminder for each designated offering. Human Relations Day: Jan. 16, 2011 One Great Hour of Sharing: April 3, 2011 Native American Ministries Sunday: May 8, 2011 Peace with Justice Sunday: June 19, 2011 World Communion Sunday: Oct. 2, 2011 United Methodist Student Day: Nov. 27, 2011 Nebraska Conference Offerings Nebraska Global AIDS Fund Offering (Neb. Advance 578): Dec. 4, 2011 Nigeria/Nebraska Orphanage Offering (Neb. Advance 851): May 8, 2011 To read more about Special Sundays, visit


Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


The story of Living Hope Omaha mission church offers help, hope to troubled neighborhood


The 2008 “Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church,” (Paragraph 259 1a) lists four criteria for a mission congregation. A church must fall into at least one of them. Living Hope United Methodist Church fits three.

By Trish Johnson Communications coordinator

The Rev. Ralph Elwyn Gaines opened his mail one Saturday and came across an envelope from the Omaha Community Foundation. Inside was a check for $5,000 from an anonymous donor who asked the foundation to administer it on his or her behalf. “It blew me away,” Gaines said. “God is so good.” That anonymous check joined other donations, including a $30,000 grant from the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation and funds from Mission Shares distributed via the Nebraska Conference Congregational Transformation and Risk-taking Mission and Justice Teams, to fund Living Hope, a United Methodist mission church, in north Omaha. Its story begins in April 2007, when the Pearl, Trinity and Asbury UMCs merged to form TRI-Community UMC, with two locations: Trinity’s site at 6001 Fontenelle Blvd. and Pearl’s long-time location at 2319 Ogden St. The Rev. Charlotte Abram was appointed senior pastor and the Rev. Gaines, who had served Omaha Union Memorial UMC for five years, was appointed associate pastor and new church planter. It soon became apparent that the Ogden Street location would serve best in a different capacity. Director of Congregational Development the Rev. Nita Hinds-Park and then-Missouri River District Superintendent the Rev. Randall Sailors recognized that it had the markers of a mission congregation. “In looking at the definition of a mission church, it definitely made sense for this location to move to that status,” said HindsPark. “The adjacent neighborhood is under severe economic hardship and there is a high crime rate there.” Hinds-Park and Sailors took the suggestion to Abram and Gaines, and with the pastors’ blessing, they presented the idea to Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson and the Cabinet. It received their collective stamp of approval, and on July 1, 2010, the Ogden Street location became a mission church. A REBIRTH Gaines said the change to becoming Living Hope’s was not only a new birth for the church, but for the neighborhood, too. “Becoming a mission congregation truly made sense,” he said. “According to the demographic studies, 60 percent of the

1) Member opportunities and resources are limited and not likely to result in a chartered congregation for an extended period of time. 2) A strategic demographic, cultural or language opportunity for serving a limited population is present. 


Members of the Omaha Living Hope United Methodist Church praise team lead the congregation in worship on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010.

Above left: The Rev. Ralph Elwyn Gaines, senior pastor at Omaha Living Hope UMC, gives the sermon on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010. Above right: Living Hope UMC members and guests sing along with the praise team. population in this area are single parents, mostly women, and while there is a high crime rate, when it comes down to it, these are good people who work hard just to live and to raise their children right.” And he’s a firm believer in living out the definition of a welcoming church. “I am very strict on enforcing the message that ‘We will be the church,’” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, where you’ve been or where you might be, anyone is welcome at Living Hope; our doors are truly always open.”

Living hope currently has 54 professing members — 28 of whom have joined since the church became a mission congregation — plus about 40 who are committed to the mission and ministry of Living Hope. “We got out into the community – we went and met people in the neighborhood, told them who we are and invited them to church,” Gaines said. “We told them everyone is welcome at Living Hope. “It’s taken three years since we opened our doors (as TRI-Community UMC) for people to learn to trust

3) It is expected that longterm sustaining funding from sources outside the congregation will be necessary to enable the congregation to exist, and the assumption of full connectional support items by the congregation is unlikely.

us, but it has happened, and now people who had stopped going to church years ago because of how they were treated by Christians who were hypocritical and judgmental in their faith are now in church every Sunday.” Gaines said that he and his wife June are the oldest attendees and that while the neighborhood is predominately black, many races and ages attend — and not necessarily from the immediate area. One man, who happens to be white, drives all the way from Bellevue, a suburb south of Omaha. “He said that the reason he’s here is because, for him, ‘The Holy Spirit is here,’” Gaines said. AN ACTIVE SPIRIT Gaines is not one to sit back and let things happen; he is doing everything he can to share the message of Living Hope’s ministry to people who are in


AROUND THE CONFERENCE Choir brings together children, ministries of Missouri River District

Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


Child Welfare Reform impacts Epworth Village

Epworth Village Executive Director Tom McBride, M.S., answers questions about Nebraska State Government’s recent child welfare reform measures. Epworth Village is a child and family services provider in York, Neb.

Q. Have there been any significant issues for Epworth Village in providing services in 2010? A. Challenging and unsettling are the words I use most often when asked how it has been in our mission to provide behavioral health and educational services to children and families in Nebraska this past year. System reform issues have had their share of problems and the scrutiny these are under is intense. Additionally there seems to be major philosophical changes that are impacting the opportunities for children to have greater access to care services. Q. How have these issues affected children and families getting the services they need? A. Within 2010 there have been several child caring agencies in Nebraska that have totally shut down, additional agencies that have closed various treatment elements within their programs, agencies that have laid off staff and others contemplating forced reductions as we move into 2011. Of six original “lead agencies” within the Child Welfare Reform, one pulled out before some changes occurred, two ended their contracts because they could no longer afford to financially operate and one was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy as it terminated its contract.

By Trish Johnson Communications coordinator The idea for the Bishop’s Rainbow Choir was born from a discussion that took place last fall, involving Catherine McGowan, Missouri River District administrative assistant; the Rev. Ralph Gaines, pastor at Omaha Living Hope United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Patty Gandarilla, director of Hispanic Ministries for the Missouri River District. Their aspiration was to bring together the diverse cultures of the district by bringing the children of the district together; they also wanted to remind people of the connectionalism that is central to the United Methodist denomination. “We thought, what better way to bring people of all backgrounds and races together, than through children,” said McGowan. “So we came up with the idea for a children’s choir that would perform Christmas songs from around the world.” Gaines suggested they name the choir in honor of Nebraska Area Bishop Ann B. Sherer-Simpson, and a rainbow represents a spectrum of colors. Sherer-Simpson gave them her blessing and from there they set off making plans and getting others involved. Trinity United Methodist Church in Ralston was chosen as the host church, and Pam Vaughn, Trinity UMC’s worship director, was asked to lead the choir. Others who joined in helping include Juan Carlos Veloso, who leads a Hispanic ministry at Bellevue St. James UMC; June Gaines, praise team director at Living Hope UMC; and the district’s United Methodist Women, who gladly said yes to providing cookies and refreshments. All of the churches in the district were invited to have their children age’s kindergarten through sixth grade, participate. More than 50 children attended two group rehearsals held prior to the performance scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 12. “The children were very diligent in learning their music,” said choir director Vaughn. “They had fun in rehearsal and enjoyed each other’s company. We had a wonderful experience!” Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate on the night of the performance, and many children and their families were unable to make it to the church. The show went on, however, and the approximately 25 kids who did make it put on a very entertaining and touching performance. “The program was truly awesome,” said Gaines. “It was a rainbow of God’s children from diverse cultures around the district,” said Vaughn. “Our community center was decorated like a winter wonderland and the children loved singing Christmas carols with the congregation, in both English and Spanish. It was a beautiful celebration of love as we lifted our voices singing praises to Jesus — after all, this is all about Him!” A special offering was taken, with all of donations going to assist a young woman named Claudia Cervantes. Claudia is a graduate of Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas, who now attends nursing school at Methodist College in Omaha; the contributions will go towards her tuition costs. The event’s organizers were more than pleased with the outcome of their efforts. “We are hoping that this is just the beginning of multicultural events in our district,” said McGowan.

Q. Has Epworth reduced staff or closed programs? A. We have managed the changes as we could. We actually expanded part of our programming areas and have also been able to maintain every other component of our family-centered treatment at the same level if not even growing those a bit. We have intentionally maintained an ability to adapt and be creative as the needs within our community of larger Nebraska has required. Throughout these times of change, we have never abandoned or deserted our basic premise, which is to continue serving children and families at the will of God. Currently, our program covers the entire state of Nebraska and serves more than 1.000 of our neighbors each month. We are very proud to provide an integrated system of care. Epworth provides the gamut of services from highly structured residential treatment to in-home safety and foster care with two cducational programs offered as well. Q. It appears that you have “stayed the course” for the Epworth Village mission. What do you think 2011 will bring? A. I have told many people that in my 30-plus years of working within human services I have never seen such dramatic changes in so many different service areas. We have not seen the end yet in the Child Welfare Reform initiative. We are also working with the Department of Health and Human Services, Medicaid and Long Term Care Division in what is commonly referred to as the Medicaid Reform process. This is a highly unique process, in that we are continuing our Medicaid related services, but we have to make decisions as to what type of care provider we will be after July 2011. While we make the decision the rules; regulations and rate methodology has not yet been determined. These changes are coming out of Federal Medicaid rules with which the State of Nebraska has to be compliant. In addition, we also have to be compliant with what we receive from Nebraska Medicaid. We believe some of the upcoming regulation changes are going to be very significant, but our plan is to continue providing the best quality of care available in Nebraska. Q. As members of The United Methodist Church, how can we continue to help Epworth in its mission? A. You can impact the health of our mission. We ask you to remain or become active faith partners, working in concert with our staff, board of directors and the Epworth Village Foundation to truly change the lives of others we have been called to serve. As a public/private partnership, we have to raise about 20 percent of our annual budget to maintain our quality programming. That will never change. As issues such as legislation arise, we may ask to mobilize your voices when necessary to provide a strong and clear message of the need to provide services that improve the quality of life for our young people and our families across Nebraska. Keep us in your prayers as we keep in the forefront of our minds our work as directed in I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be you steadfast, un-moveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”


Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


Breaking down the appointment process By Susan Cooper Kansas Area communications associate director Trish Johnson Nebraska Conference communications coordinator The process of appointing pastors is spelled out in the “Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.” While all annual conferences follow the guidelines of the Book of Discipline, the Kansas East, Kansas West and Nebraska cabinet deans all are in agreement that a great deal of prayer and careful contemplation guides the process. “A lot of prayer, effort, discernment and thought go into it,” said the Rev. Galen Wray, district superintendent of the Blue River District and dean of the Nebraska Conference cabinet. “The process really is pretty complicated, but our main goal is to ultimately match the best resource with the intended mission field. We are trying to help churches grow through who we place there.” The Rev. Howard Johnson, district superintendent of the Flint Hills District and dean of the Kansas East Conference cabinet said, “Prayer invites the Holy Spirit to guide the process and direct the right person to the right place. The consultative process looks through prayerful discernment at people’s gifts and graces.” It is a lengthy process. District superintendents start holding one-on-one consultations with their pastors in the fall, as well as attending charge/church conferences at the churches in their district. Once all of these meetings have taken place, the cabinet meets and begins compiling their list of openings due to retirement or death, who has requested a move — either the pastor or the church — or where they feel a change is needed. There are numerous factors to take into consideration, such as compensation, the

The 2008 “Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church” (Paragraph 433): The process used in appointment-making shall include: 1.A change in appointment may be initiated by a pastor, a committee on pastor-parish relations, a district superintendent, or a bishop. 2.The bishop and the cabinet shall consider all requests for change of appointment in light of the profile developed for each charge and the gifts and evidence of God’s grace, professional experience, and family needs of the pastor. 3.When a change in appointment has been determined, the district superintendent should meet together or separately with the pastor and the committee on pastor-parish relations where the pastor is serving, for the purpose of sharing the basis for the change and the process used in making the new appointment. 4.All appointments shall receive consideration by the bishop, the district superintendent(s), and the cabinet as a whole until a tentative decision is made. Additional requirements include the emphasis that appointments should be congruent with the prospective appointee’s gifts, have evidence of God’s grace and take into account any family needs the pastor may have. Furthermore, if the appointment is to a position other than pastor in charge, the prospective appointee shall be informed prior to the appointment that it is part of a multiple-staff ministry, and the pastor in charge shall be conferred with concerning the prospective appointee. For less than full-time appointments, the district superintendent shall consult with the clergy person to be appointed and the committee on pastor-parish relations regarding proportional time, salary, pension credit and benefit coverage.

pastor’s particular gifts, the circumstances of the pastor’s family and the circumstances of the church. “We pray about the churches first. The district superintendent describes very carefully what may be going on there. We look at all the options. After we discern the pastor’s name, we invite them into that call,” said Johnson. Wray said it is “truly a collaborative process between the bishop and the district superintendents.” “It’s very conversational,” said Johnson. “We have to learn the pastors’ gifts and graces to have enough information to do the discernment.” The appointment process continues well into March or April, depending on the number of appointments to be made. The three cabinets met Dec. 13-14 at the Nebraska Conference Center in Lincoln to get to know one another and to compare

notes on various processes and ministries, including the appointment process. One difference is there are two conferences within the Kansas Episcopal Area. According to Johnson, the cabinet can only “invite” pastors to cross conferences. The bishop cannot appoint east to west, or vice versa, without the pastor’s consent. Johnson said with any appointment, there is no effectiveness without the person really wanting to be there. “You can’t force effectiveness,” he said. If the three conferences approve the proposal by the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team to consolidate into one conference, pastors could be appointed anywhere within the episcopal area. It would open up possibilities that would not have been available previously, according to Johnson.

— SAVE THE DATE — The Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team will host a live webcast on March 13 at 4 p.m. to share their sense of direction and gather additional feedback for the recommendation to be made at the three annual conference sessions in 2011.

TRANSITION: from p. 1

Team members have identified the deployment of passionate leaders for effective ministry in the mission field as a top priority. In general, the mission field describes the three conferences’ common opportunities for evangelism, outreach and justice work in keeping with the overall mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. “With that focus in mind, team members have looked at how best to get the most resources into the hands of local church members to make them more effective at making disciples in their local mission fields,” said Bob Cox, team member from Hays, Kan. “The purpose of the transition team was to figure out how to organize for ministry in a new episcopal area,” said the Rev. David Livingston, from St. Paul’s UMC in Lenexa, Kan. “Working together as one unified area will help us to better align our spiritual, technological and financial resources for efficiently and effectively fulfilling the needs of our mission in the 21st century.” Watson reminded the group that the annual conferences need to understand that this is a two-step process. First, the three conferences have to approve a recommendation from the transition team. Then, the conferences have to obtain permission from the South Central Jurisdiction to make area changes. In addition, if feedback and comments suggest another direction is more viable, the transition team will go back to the drawing board. The goal is to have a recommendation ready for the 2011 annual conference sessions. The transition team is giving serious consideration to

A draft of the Transition Team’s work will be made available prior to the webcast to allow ample time for people to review. Viewing group locations and additional information on the format of the webcast will be announced in February.

becoming one conference. To keep that exploration going, their work between now and the annual conference sessions will be to continue to develop the big picture of what the new annual conference will look like. Part of that work is the identification and creation of technical teams to

At the end of the day, we want to make sure anyone who has an opinion on the matter has had an opportunity for their ideas to be heard and considered. — Tom Watson, chairperson of the Nebraska-Kansas Episcopal Area Transition Team

work on the nuts and bolts of what it will take to move to a new annual conference. These groups will address questions like the location of offices, numbers of districts, distribution of assets, and pension and benefits — questions that will need to be addressed regardless of the number of conferences. Team members remain open to receiving input from people across the three conferences as they continue to develop their recommendation. “We’re not finished yet,” said Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones. “I’m leaning toward one conference, but I’ve got some questions that still need to be checked out.” Bishop Ann B. ShererSimpson affirmed Jones’ openness to hearing additional thoughts on how best to serve the mission field of the new episcopal area. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure anyone who has an opinion on the matter has had an opportunity for their ideas to be heard and considered,” concluded Watson.

AROUND THE CONFERENCE Conference continues to Rethink Church

Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger

LIVING HOPE, from p. 6


desperate need. Gaines also has found “Rethink Church” is now a That means providing support in other parts of the familiar phrase in the lexicon of transportation, which his wife Conference. Tom and Teri most United Methodists. June – who also serves as music Lucas, the husband-andLaunched in May 2009, director – does every Sunday. wife pastoral team from the the welcoming and advertising That means social gatherings, Valentine-Kilgore-Cody UMCs campaign is a continuation including a potluck meal after in north-central Nebraska, of the “Open hearts. Open the 11 a.m. worship service met Gaines at the 2010 Annual minds. Open doors.” campaign. almost every Sunday. Conference Session. The Lucases Aimed primarily at 18-34 yearThat means continuing the were touched by Gaines’ story old seekers, it has changed the Pearl Food Pantry, which has and wanted to help. They took a meaning of the “Open hearts” helped thousands of families “wish list” of needs back to their brand promise, by taking the throughout the Omaha area, and congregations and asked Gaines word “open” from being an the Pearl Community Center, to guest preach. Their members adjective and turning it into a which provides an after-school were visibly touched by Gaine’s verb. program for 25-30 kids three ministry, and some said they The Rev. Rebecca Hjelle days a week. would like to commit to sending gave her take on this new way It means a need for more money on a regular basis. of thinking, “It’s no longer about Five of the Nebraska Conference’s Rethink Church-certified funding and resources, and the Gaines is encouraged by a ‘field of dreams’ church where if trainers. From left to right: Trish Johnson, Miriam Peralta Ganchurch is struggling with an others’ willingness and desire we build it they will come; we have darilla, Koni Purscell, Rebecca Hjelle and Laura Stubblefield. old building. The current one to help. But he knows he has to start looking at opportunities is historical, at the age or 100, his work cut out for him and it to go where ‘they’ are — ­­ college however costs of utilities are will take the open hearts and campuses, coffee shops, bars, laundry mats — and start building relationships that can make a difference.” becoming a barrier. open minds of many to help him Hjelle, associate pastor at Kearney First UMC, is one of five people from the Nebraska Conference “With a new church start, accomplish the vision he has for who took part in a Rethink Church Communications Ministry Training in Nashville, Tenn., last spring. you get the people and then Living Hope. This group is now certified to train others in the Rethink Church curriculum. The two-fold goal of the build when you reach a certain “Whether I’m here or not, trainings is to equip local churches to interpret the Rethink campaign/movement, and provide ideas and number,” Gaines said. “Well, this church has to stay in this resources to help them develop strategies and design a plan for implementing it. we are a mission church, and community and continue to The four others who took part in the training are Miriam Peralta Gandarilla, Trish Johnson, Koni we have the people right now, serve these people. It has to. It is Purscell and Laura Stubblefield. Kathryn Witte, director of communications and marketing for the but if we’re going to survive and my mission.” Nebraska Conference, and Lisa Maupin, director of communications and volunteers for United continue to grow, we’ve got to Methodist Ministries of the Missouri River District, have also been trained as trainers. build.” Trainings are typically conducted at local churches for a group of interested persons, but can also be district-wide. Witte stressed that it is beneficial for as many people from one church to participate as possible. “I have found that the best way to create energy around new ideas taken from workshops is to make sure that a significant number representing a congregation takes part,” she said.“ Friendships have always shaped Other topics covered in trainings include welcoming, connectional giving, children and Friendship and Politics: our politics. Homer’s Iliad describes young people’s ministries, learning and teaching styles and technology. two warriors about to clash. But Ancient Practices Maupin is also the Volunteers in Mission (VIM) coordinator for the Conference, and they lay down their arms once they she said the effects of the Rethink Church campaign have been far-reaching. discover “their grandfathers are and Modern Habits “I’m really excited about the way it encourages people to take church outside of the bound by xenia,” a Greek word for building and get creative about doing church,” said Maupin. “‘The church has left the hospitality or “guest-friendship.” We’ll February 1 – March 8 look at Greek concepts of friendship building’ concept has spread; more people have expressed interest in VIM projects and and examine how bonds shape our they’re thinking differently about community and social justice projects, beyond just Tuesdays, noon to 1 p.m. sense of what’s just. providing clothing, shelter and food. They’re thinking about how they can go to where people are and connect with them outside of the four walls of the church.” INSTRUCTOR: “The church has left the building” was the name of the day of mission work that took Lisa Wilkinson, NWU professor of philosophy $40/person or $20/retired clergy or place during the 2010 Annual Conference Session. More than 600 people particpated, with Rev. Lowen V. Kruse spouses, plus materials. Six hours CE including 100 youth. This mission day will be repeated at the 2011 session. Every Nebraska credit available. United Methodist will also have the opportunity to “leave the building” this spring, as the Conference will be taking part in the second annual Change the World weekend. The inaugural Change the World weekend occurred April 24-25, 2010; more than Course offered at Participate live from wherever 100,000 people from over 1,000 churches and 13 different countries participated in the or at nine video conferencing sites. you are via our web-stream. United Methodist Communications initiated event that encouraged churches to get out into their communities. Stories from Change the World weekend and more information Call Stephanie at 402.465.2222 or visit about the initiative can be found at for locations and UM Communications recently made some changes to the Rethink Church-related registration details. websites. Congregational resources for the Rethink Church advertising and welcoming campaign have moved to a new address: The website that previously housed congregational resources,, is now the primary seeker site that is featured in Rethink Church advertising. “Research shows that resonates most strongly with the seekers we are trying to reach with our advertising,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of UM Communications. “This website address reinforces the message we want non-United Methodist seekers to take away from our advertising — that we are rethinking church.” The Conference’s Rethink-certified trainers hope that more churches will be inspired to implement the Rethink Church program in the new year; for more information about having a Rethink training at your church or in your district, contact Witte at 800-435-6107 or e-mail



Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


A new year, a new day, a new direction By Louise Niemann UMW president

U n i t e d Methodist Women are looking ahead with anticipation and excitement to a new year. We have partnered with the Schools of Christian Mission Committee and Risk-taking Mission and Justice Team to provide excellent educational opportunities in 2011. The new year can be a season of new beginnings for everyone as we offer three outstanding Conference events. You don’t have to be a member of United Methodist Women to attend! Cooperative Schools of Christian Mission offer the Mid-Winter School Jan. 28-30, in Ogallala. Studies are “For the Love of God” and “Joy to the World. On July 22-24 and July 2426, Weekend and Weekday Cooperative School events are set for Grand Island. Study themes are “Coming Out on the Side of Grace:

Reconciliation,” “Haiti, and “Joy to the World.” The New York Seminar on Immigration. is May 2-6. Seminar stops include the Church Center for the United Nations, Women’s Division and Board of Global Ministries offices. Lodging will be offered at the Alma Matthews House. The UMW Annual Meeting is scheduled for York, Neb., on Oct. 13-14, with keynote speaker, Deputy General Secretary for Woman’s Division, Harriett Olson; and a hands-on mission weekend at Epworth Village. A new year, a new start, a new direction that leads to change! Visit the United Methodist -Women’s website,, to find additional information and registration forms. United Methodist Women “get together” in Valentine Nearly 200 United Methodist Women traveled to Valentine, Neb., for its Annual Conference Meeting on Oct. 15-16, 2010. All were

By Doug Kalleson, UMMen communicator

New officers attend leadership training event (Photo above right, from left to right) Rogene Silletto, communications; Mary Ellen Kilmer, deaconess; Virginia White, nominations; Jenelle Erb, secretary; and Doris Whitacre, nominations, attended

the Leadership Training Event for newly elected United Methodist Women Conference officers, on Nov. 19-21, 2010, in St. Louis, Mo., Speakers emphasized telling our Paid for by Nebraska UMW ministires/womens_ministry/


Five former Nebraska UMM presidents join together to invite all Nebraska United Methodist Men to become involved. From left to right: Dave Mendyk, Doug Kallesen, Merv Schliefert, Mel Andrews and Randy Fleming. This is written in the midst of Advent. One Advent study focuses on the four weeks on waiting, accepting, journeying and birthing. Each week is viewed from three perspectives — the first Christmas; our personal and our church’s spiritual life and the second coming of Christ. In which of these four stages is

inspired by the words of keynote speaker Marisa Villarreal, executive secretary for Language Ministries, Women’s Division, GBGM. She spoke of “getting together,” standing together to support our beliefs and making a difference in the lives of others around the world. Views of the St. Louis Assembly were presented by several attendees and scholarship winners. Many remarked about the increase in their knowledge of the global work in missions of the United Methodist Women. Focus groups gave women an opportunity to meet in small groups for lively discussions on topics of interest. Large quantities of socks, copy paper and food were donated to Epworth Village, Wesley House and the Food Bank.

your local men’s ministry? If God is suggesting to you that it is time for the birth of some growth, let me encourage you. I believe that Emmanuel, our God with us, is ready for growth in Nebraska. If you want any help with developing men’s ministry through your church, give one of the

conference UMMen leaders a call. Leader contact information is always listed at the website below, or call/email me. Carpool to Camp Norwesca in Chadron in February Here’s a chance to hear Chadron area speakers and Nebraska Conference UMMen leaders, plus take a field trip to the uranium mine near Crawford. Detailed information will soon be distributed to churches and posted on the UMMen website. The Winter UMMen rally will be Feb. 18-20, 2011, Friday evening through Sunday morning, hosted by the Chadron men. Contact us so you can get into a carpool, especially if you are in the east end of the state. Road tripping with the guys is a good chance to get to know each other. Opportunity – Course on understanding men’s ministry Men and women are invited to attend this Advanced Lay Speaking Course, March 4-5, 2011, Friday evening through Saturday afternoon, at the Auburn First UMC. Course materials include a copy of the book “No Man Left Behind.” Course leaders will be Conference and Missouri River District officers. Contact Dave Mendyk at 402-372-2149

or concerning registration scholarships available for women participating in the course. To register, contact Catherine McGowan at 402-8989862 or You do not have to be in the Lay Speaker’s program to participate. EMS/Legacy Builders/ Chartering All men in the United Methodist Church are UMMen, that’s a given. UMMen are asked to contribute $45 per year for an individual Evangelism, Mission and Spiritual Life (EMS) membership and work to charter their local men as a group for $85 per year. Both of these connections provide you with benefits and important information. Many have taken the next step by becoming Legacy Builders. Legacy Builders is a movement that will change the hearts of men. Go to www. and click on “Support GCUMM,” then click on “EMS/ Legacy Buildiner” for instructions on both membership opportunities, or call Doug Kallesen at 402-563-1570. For chartering, click on “Support GCUMM”, then “Chartering,” then “Charter Application.”

story of mission and spoke of our “sisterhood of grace” that enables the organization to make a difference of life or death to others around the world. Contact: Rogene Silletto 8000 Lowell Ave. Lincoln, NE 68506

Participate in the 100 Club Scholarship Fund The 100 Club celebrates 22 years of providing scholarships to men and women studying for full-time Christian ministry. We need more people in ministry. Answering God’s call can be a big step both spiritually and financially. The 100 Club is here to provide support. Contact Randy Fleming for questions or make your check out to “100 Club” and mail to P.O. Box 410, Springfield, NE 68059. Or, contact Fleming at auctioneer_32@msn. com. Congratulations are also in order to Fleming for being elected to the board of directors of the National Association of United Methodist Scouters.

Paid for by UMMen ministrires/mens Contact: Doug Kallesen 402-563-1570 3917 Adamy St. Columbus, NE 68601

Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger


Bicycle built for you

Retired Nebraska pastor Watson builds bikes, toys for those in need By Kitty Carpenter

e-Review, Florida United Methodist News Service Before the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Rev. Guerry Lefranc called 56 orphaned children “my kids.” Now, he says, he could easily be father to 200 if he had the resources to care for them. Lefranc is director of United Methodist-related Zamar Ministries near Croix-desBouquets, Haiti, which operates a school, church and clinic. He is also the brother of the Rev. Tamara Isidore, pastor at Friendship United Methodist Church in Clearwater, Fla., and a member of the Florida Conference’s Haiti-Florida Covenant task group. Lefranc says the earthquake devastated his parish. People there have received tents but no other help from the government or Red Cross, despite the fact that supplies are relatively close by. Problems associated with distributing donated supplies have prolonged people’s suffering, forcing people to live in tents and beg for food. Several Florida Conference churches are helping fill that gaping hole of relief by providing food, supplies, and another much-needed item — bicycles. One of the first big projects of the bicycle ministry at East Lake UMC in Palm Harbor was refurbishing bicycles for Haiti. Shortly after the earthquake hit, 11 adult bicycles were loaded into a container filled with relief supplies headed for Zamar Ministries. Within a few days of that shipment, Magical Charters in Odessa and Agape Ministries in Venice and Haiti worked to send another 21 adult bicycles. Most were provided to adult relief

workers so they could travel to earthquake damaged sites more easily. And by the end of this month, the Palm Harbor church plans to send another shipping container of supplies. Sue Bailey, who co-chairs the church’s mission ministry, said the container will include a variety of items, including food, bicycles, household items, school supplies, clothes, 200 toys made by the church’s ToyMaker ministry and supplies for the clinic. It will also include tools and repair kits so Zamar Ministries can start its own bicycle repair program. “With bicycles, they can go to (supply and relief sites to) get more help,” Lefranc said. Each bicycle has a yellow seat with the word Zamar painted on it. If people need to use a bicycle, they must agree to work for the ministry. The genesis of the bicycle ministry began long before the earthquake hit and grew from another ministry at East Lake UMC. Since 2007, the church’s ToyMakers ministry has produced thousands of brightly painted, simple wooden toys for children in physical or emotional distress. In late 2009, volunteers expanded the program to include a thriving bicycle ministry that has refurbished more than 150 bicycles for Haiti, area veteran’s groups, homeless men and women, and local at-risk children. Both ministries began when people with similar interests were motivated to put their hobbies into service for others. The Rev. Gene Watson was one of the driving forces behind the group. Watson retired to Palm Harbor by way of New Port Richey after serving 40 years in the Nebraska Conference of The United Methodist Church. His ministry began as a US2 missionary teaching industrial arts at a children’s home in Nebraska. Feeling like a “preacher out of water” after retiring, he stepped back into woodworking and mechanical repair work and joined the ToyMakers


From left to right: Cory Nickels, the Rev. Gene Watson, Trevor Charlton and Otniel Lefranc repair bicycles through the bicycle ministry at East Lake UMC in Palm Harbor, Fla. The ministry has repaired more than 150 bicycles for people in Haiti, area veteran’s groups, homeless men and women living in tent cities in Pinellas and Pasco counties, and local at-risk children. Group of New Port Richey. The community group, established in 1982, has provided 250,000 toys to children in need across the globe and spawned nearly 100 ToyMakers programs across the country. Watson and two other church members formed a new ToyMakers outreach at East Lake in 2007 with six volunteers. Today, 40 men and women, ages 15 to 90, work in shifts Tuesdays through Thursdays and Saturday mornings making a variety of toys. More than 4,000 are distributed each year to children’s hospitals, therapy units, Ronald McDonald houses, law enforcement agencies, firefighters’ programs, women’s shelters and local children’s missions. “It just shows that God can use individuals and churches with talents big and small to help others in a tangible way,” Watson said. The church helped ToyMakers expand by offering an annex building that had been used as

a maintenance facility for a golf course as a permanent workshop. The interest in a bicycle ministry began to take shape when Watson found a kindred spirit in neighbor Cory Nickels. At age 13, Nickels began roaming his neighborhood on garbage nights, picking up anything that could be recycled, fixed, sold or donated to people in need. He fixed strollers, cribs, bicycles and even televisions and donated them to domestic violence centers and other charities. Nickels, now 17, says his home workshop kept expanding and he began working regularly with Watson, both at ToyMakers and on bicycles. When Watson and his wife, the Rev. LoisRogers Watson, a retired Florida Conference minister, moved to Palm Harbor, Watson spoke with ToyMakers leaders about including a bicycle ministry. Church member Trevor Charlton, a mechanical engineer and plant manager for a pharmaceutical packaging

company, heard about the proposed project and volunteered to lead the team. Charlton said he “tinkered with” cars and motorcycles when he was younger and was looking for something to do that would give back to his church and community. Charlton enlisted the help of a coworker. Then, Adam Fierce, a junior in East Lake High School’s engineering magnet program and a member of the church joined the team, and the bicycle ministry was born. The four volunteers now work on the bicycles most Saturdays, alongside the ToyMakers volunteers. Watson helps as needed, but spends most of his time making toys. “It is very gratifying to know that our bike ministry has such (far-reaching) consequences,” Charlton said of the ministry’s impact in Haiti. Additional information on the ToyMakers ministry is available at www.toymakersofeastlake. org.



Winter 2010 Nebraska Messenger

My story By Bill Black , contributing writer Editor’s note: Black attends Lincoln Trinity United Methodist Church and is a member of the Nebraska United Methodist Conference AIDS Task Force. At the recent Lighten the Burden Conference III in Dallas, sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, I learned much about AIDS in the brief but full two and a half days. As a newly recruited volunteer to the Nebraska AIDS Task Force I had much to learn from people gathered there from places around the world. But, my journey to this conference may have begun almost 50 years ago. As a naive lad of 18 from Colorado, I first encountered the gay culture during my off-duty visits to San Francisco while stationed on Treasure Island for basic electronics training. This was in 1961, 20 years before the official acknowledgment of AIDS in the U.S. What I and other young sailors encountered there was what I now call the seedy side of the gay community. Sometimes the frequent and blatant “pick-up” overtures were amusing. Sometimes they were

quite bothersome. Nearly always they were troubling for me. For the next 30 or so years my contact with the gay community was nearly nonexistent although I was aware of the AIDS problem and that the disease was deadly. On a business trip to the Bay Area in the early 90’s, I arranged to spend the weekend in San Francisco doing touristy things and revisiting places from my time there in 1961. Attending worship on Sunday morning at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church will be one of those experiences always remembered. The sorrow and suffering was palpable as the congregation marked the passing of two more of their fellow worshipers from AIDS. Imagine the burden and sadness of mourning week after week the passing of one or two or more of your fellow church members. That was in the days before viable treatments could delay the deadly progression of AIDS for very long. And that was the day my eyes and heart were opened to understand that the victims were my fellow human beings,

See MY STORY, p.5

NUMB Ride announces 2011 route Mark June 25-29 on your calender, for the 16th annual Nebraska United Methodist Bike Ride for Hunger (NUMB). NUMB has contributed more than $460,000 to alleviate hunger in Nebraska and around the world since the first ride in 1996. Sponsored by the Risk-taking Mission and Justice Team, the ride is open to all interested cyclists. Route Director Greg Bakewell has set out a beautiful route in the historic panhandle of Nebraska, including a 70-mile route between the towns of Gering and Scottsbluff. The Presbyterian Church of Bridgeport will host the first and last days of the ride. The United Methodist Churches of Hemingford, Gering and Scottsbluff will host the other nights. NUMB is limited to the first 150 riders registered; there was a waiting list for the 2010 ride. Watch for registration forms in late January 2011 — go to or follow NUMB on Facebook.

The face of a life affected by the AIDS virus: This boy lost his parents to AIDS. Here he sits with his cupful of mahewu, a nutritionally supplemented drink, received along with a cupful of cornmeal porridge each school day.

A “church has left the building” story Gordon UMC members join with community to help one of their own The following was submitted by the Rev. Kevin Burkhardt, pastor of Gordon-Clinton UMCs, located in the Great West District. What happens when the "church leaves the building" ... A community outreach soup and pie dinner was held at the Gordon American Legion Hall on Sunday, Dec 12, 2010. The dinner was a fundraiser for a local woman who was severely assaulted the previous week. Two women from the Gordon UMC had the

idea for the dinner and they did a great job of organizing it; the event raised more than $4,000 for the family in need. One of the Lutheran churches is going to add $1,000 in the form of a grant. A loving and generous community came together to help out one of their own. How everyone came together to make this happen is simply amazing and Spirit-driven!

A note of thanks Thank you to so many for all of the cards, family letters and other expressions of joy sent to us and dropped off to the Conference Center during Advent and Christmas. We are grateful and appreciate the opportunity to be in ministry with you. Bishop Ann B. ShererSimpson, Director of Connectional Ministries/ Staff Leader Carol Roettmer Brewer and the entire Nebraska United Methodist Conference Staff


Website gets new look for new year P. 6 — MISSION 2012 NEBRASKA-KANSAS EPISCOPAL AREA TEAM’S NEXT MEETING VOL. 48, NO. 1 Check us out online...

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